Monday, December 23, 2013

Mass protests in Kiev

Ukrainian protesters blocked streets leading to government buildings with barricades, as tens of thousands rallied on Kiev’s Independence Square. The opposition hoped its pro-EU protest would attract 1 million people, calling it “The Million March.”

Nearly 100,000 protesters have gathered on Kiev’s center, according to police estimates. The opposition has claimed nearly 1 million people are taking part in the rally.

However, observers at the scene quoted by RT's Paul Scott said such a figure is way too “optimistic.” Ukrainian Interior Ministry later said in a statement that Independence Square can only hold up to 100,000 people dressed in winter clothes, citing own calculations.

Defying government instructions to stop blocking administrative buildings, opposition leaders on Sunday called on a several-thousand-strong group of demonstrators to move from Maidan toward government offices and “set up camp there.”

A large group of protesters then approached a thick police cordon surrounding the parliament (Verkhovna Rada) and the Cabinet of Ministers. Activists blocked the street next to the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers with makeshift barricades made from metal shields and concrete flower-beds.

The opposition Udar (Strike) party’s leader, Vitaly Klitschko, who headed toward the government buildings with the demonstrators, says that they aim to block the whole government quarter of offices, while Batkivschina (Fatherland) leader Arseny Yatsenyuk says the protesters will be picketing outside the buildings of “ministries, tax administration and other institutions.” Opposition leaders are expecting the protests to continue “until the resignation of the government.”
Meanwhile, a group of protesters has taken down the monument to Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin on Kiev’s Bessarabskya Square, decapitating and smashing the statue with hammers after it fell to the ground.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry reminded that the actions of peaceful protesters “should not infringe rights of other citizens” and warned that blocking traffic is punishable in accordance with the country’s criminal code.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) also said in a statement it launched a criminal case into “actions directed at a government takeover” in the country. “Certain politicians” are suspected of undertaking unlawful actions with the ultimate aim of organizing a coup, the SBU said, adding that no charges have yet been filed in the case.

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